A Hop Over the Pond

A Hop Over the Pond

An Afternoon in Shakespeare's Hometown

Friends and Family,

These past few days have flown by so quickly. It seems like I was just posting about the Chatsworth House and Oxford on Sunday, and now, it is "hump day." At Harlaxton, Wednesday signals that it is almost the end of the school week and time for another adventure. However, I thought I would give you a brief synopsis over what has occurred in the last few days.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations officially ended yesterday, and although I did not directly participate in the festivities, I have stayed updated through the internet and newspapers on campus. While traveling through various towns over the past few days, I have seen the tremendous amount of patriotic spirit among the British. Union Jacks were strewn across clotheslines, children were decked out in red, white, and blue, and barbecues were held in nearly every neighborhood. I watched portions of the concert held at Buckingham Palace as well as the floatilla which occurred on Sunday, despite the downpour. Though I was not in London and did not really wish to be there in the midst of all that choas, I could still sense how truly significant this event was to the British people.

On Tuesday, I spent my last day of the Jubilee celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon. While I loved the quaintness of Stratford, the pouring rain dampered the whole ambiance of such a historic town. I went with a couple of my friends to Shakespeare's birthplace as well as a museum which gave a very brief history of Shakespeare and his family living in Stratford. Honestly, I do not think paying 12.50 GBP was worth the experience. Yes, it was amazing to walk in the footsteps of Shakespeare, but the tour through his house literally took 15 minutes, so I was slightly disappointed.

After browsing the shops and dodging in and out of the rain, I sat down with the rest of my class at Red Lion Inn, a family restaurant and pub. I had the traditional fish and chips, which was very good. I have to admit that I was a bit depressed by my experience and was ready to attend Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. What was intriguing about this particular performance was the fact that Julius Caesar's cast was entirely black, and there was a strong African influence in the music as well as the cast's accents. Through one of my classmate's presentations the day before, I learned that Julius Caesar is a play that is very dear to the African people. The people of African nations, who have lived under countless dictators, can identify or relate to this play. There are specific parallels between Shakespeare's play and Nelson Mandela as well as his efforts to dissolve the Apartheid government in South Africa. Supposedly, Mandela read Julius Caesar in prison and used it as his inspiration. This is subject matter that would be very interesting to delve deeper into.

In regard to the performance, the actors were passionate and spoke clearly and fervently. The man who played Brutus had wild and crazy eyes. At times, he seemed possessed and was truly an interesting character. Caesar looked like a typical dictator, with his very stiff and clean military uniform. He spoke of being the only "constant" star in the sky, which only forshadowed his fate. The set also hinted of the oppressiveness of dictatorships. A cement bunker stood as the focal point, with a giant statue of Caesar standing proudly behind it. Though I was hoping to see a more traditional Shakespearean play, I was so excited to see this rendition of Julius Caesar. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.

Next week, I have the opportunity to view Henry IV, Part II in Stamford, which I am looking forward to. At this point, I think the actors will be in traditional Shakepearean costume, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the numerous productions I have seen here. So, I really don't know what to expect. These next few days look somewhat busy. Today, my class is touring Tolethorpe, a theatre in Stamford and then attending The Final Test, a brand new play, in Lincoln on Thursday. Friday morning, I'm off to Scotland to see its beautiful and historic capital, Edinburgh. While I have less than two weeks in the United Kingdom, there is still so much to see and do!

 

Until next time,

Alyssa

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